The Assignment

Corporate portraits for Ally Financial Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Brimmer (top) and Chief Human Resources Officer Kathie Patterson. They were photographed at Ally’s Detroit headquarters. The images were commissioned for use on social media, in internal corporate communication, annual reports, and at the website

Tips for a Successful Executive Shoot

  • Location scout. Set aside a half-day for the photographer to see the location. This allows the photographer to work through the logistics of the shoot. This will help the day of the shoot go smoothly. If environmental portraits are on the agenda, scouting lets the photographer find the most photogenic parts of the location.

  • Allow time. Executives are on tight timelines. On the day of the shoot, schedule your crew to arrive at least 2 hour before shoot begins. This allows time to set up. It also gives a cushion for any unforeseen circumstances.

  • Rent what you need. If you are doing personal work, you can abide a light that misfires or a single card slot that may fail. Do not abide these things on a business portrait shoot. Rent reliable lights and a camera with dual card slots. Program the camera to write RAW images to both slots. This gives you instantaneous file backup.

  • Shoot tethered. It is very difficult to coordinate executive schedules. If you don’t get things right the first time, there will not be a second. Shoot tethered to a computer or wirelessly to a tablet. This allows the client to provide instant feedback and pre-select images for their proof gallery. My assistant showed Andrea the very first frame we made and Andrea said “That’s what I’m looking for!” — which was exactly what I hoped to hear! :)

  • Hire help. An assistant and hair-and-make-up artist are key. In addition to helping with set-up, placement of lights, and running the tether system, an assistant acts as a crucial second set of eyes. When you are working on a tight timeline and contending with camera settings, lighting, and the almost-inevitable equipment hiccups, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. A good assistant will notice the photo-ruining out-of-place hair or upturned collar. A hair and MUA will make sure your clients look their absolute best.

  • BONUS TIP: FotoQuote is an index of photographers’ fees. It organizes fees by the kind of service provided (i.e. promotional, commercial, editorial) and duration of licence (i.e. one year, two years, perpetuity). It then returns a range of fees for that combination. This is a must-have tool for anyone who buys or sells photography services.


Assistant: Stephanie Hume
MUA/Hair: Emili Cook
Ally Financial Creative Director: Deb Och

Stephanie and Emili were absolutely fantastic. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Deb, Andrea, and Kathie at Ally. Also, special thanks to Ally Executive Assistant Susan Gobb for making the payment process go so smoothly. I suppose I should add another unofficial tip: Have an amazing, down-to-Earth, fun client. Hard to come by, but awesome if you do.